High Hopes by C J Richardson 2012
Sophie stepped on to the balcony, breathed in the cool mountain air and gazed up at the Jungfrau. Even in the middle of summer its peak was covered white. She had the dream again last night. Maybe it would happen this year.
Every year, on the same night, on the same family holiday in Wengen, she had the same dream. It started five years ago when she was fourteen.
The dream always started as she walked, with her family, through the tunnel at the top of the Jungfrau and out into a dazzling world of snow and ice and brilliant blue sky. The sun would shine fiercely and she would put on her sunglasses. The views would always take her breath away and she would allow herself to fall backwards in to the snow with arms and legs stretched out wide. Her older brother Tom and his friend Jake, who had come on holiday with them that year, followed suit and they would all laugh and slide their arms up and down to make angel imprints in the virgin snow. A shadow would fall over her and block out the sun. A hand would reach down and she would take it and allow herself to be pulled to her feet. She would find herself gazing in to the bluest eyes she had ever seen and her heart would flip as a tall handsome young man smiled back at her...then she would wake up. She was so sure that he was ‘THE ONE’ that she had never allowed herself to have feelings for any other boy that she met.
Sophie turned away from the view and the smile slipped from her face as she realised that the dream couldn’t come true this year. She hadn’t come with Mum and Dad or Tom. She was here with best friend Tanya. Tanya was still fast asleep and curled up under the covers. Her shiny black hair spread out across the pillow.
‘Come on sleepy head get up. I can’t wait to show you my favourite mountain.’
‘Uh? What time is it?’
‘Nine. Now come on. They only serve breakfast for another half hour and I don’t want to hear you whining about how hungry you are all morning.’
The pair showered and dressed and raced down to breakfast with just five minutes to spare. Tanya piled her plate with croissants, rolls, cheese and ham. Sophia had a small bowl of cereal and yoghurt. She couldn’t understand how Tanya could eat so much and never put an ounce of weight on her tall willowy body. It wasn’t fair. If she so much as looked at a chocolate biscuit she could put a pound on. She had dieted for three months before they came away and only managed to lose about four pounds.
One hour later, they stepped out of the hotel lobby into brilliant sunshine. The alpine meadow that ran up the hill at the side of the building was a riot of colour with flowers. Buttercups, clover, vetch and so many more that they did not know the names of. They walked down the hill to the station where the rack and pinion trains ran up the Jungfrau every half hour. The sound of cow bells filled the air as the local cow herd was being led up to the higher grazing areas.
‘It might happen’ said Tanya.
‘Your dream. It might come true. Just because Tom isn’t here or your Mum and Dad. Dreams aren’t always about exactly what is going to happen. I remember dreaming about the most brilliant buffet table, chocca-block with all my favourite food and the next day it nearly came true. It wasn’t a buffet but I was invited to the most amazing barbeque with the most fantastic food ever. Won’t be a minute. Just popping into that shop for a couple of chocolate bars.’
Sophie waited and looked around at her favourite place in the entire world. The same little shops. The florist in the corner of the square with self catering flats above. All with balconies that were dressed with the usual bright red geraniums. The benches where she had sat so many times with her family eating ice cream and looking out across the valley below where waterfalls cascaded down from the high cliffs.
The train arrived just as Tanya returned and they managed to find seats facing each other by the window. Sophie’s heart was doing somersaults as their journey began. Maybe Tanya was right. The views were spectacular today. No low clouds or mists to spoil the mood or hide the high peaks. Sophie pointed out the Eiger to Tanya who had lowered the window and was clicking away on her camera as if her life depended upon it. They changed trains at Kleine Sheidegg and continued their trip up into the long tunnel that ran right through the hard rock of the mountain. There were stations in the tunnel where chambers had been carved out to give open views of the surrounding peaks. Sophie and Tanya slipped on their outdoor clothing to take advantage of the stops.
They finally stepped off the train and followed the crowds through the cold tunnels to where the restaurants and gift shops were housed. Tanya was heading straight to the food when Sophie steered her towards a tunnel which ran out from beside the gift shop.
‘Hey! I thought it was at least lunch time. Where are we going?’
‘We can eat later. I just want to show you what it looks like outside before any cloud comes down.’
‘But I’m so hungry, I feel really faint Sophie.’
‘That’s not hunger. It’s the altitude. It affects some people that way. Just breathe slowly and take your time. You’ll be ok.’
Sophie linked arms with Tanya and led her slowly along the dark tunnels until they reached the exit. They stepped out and blinked.
‘Wow! This is amazing.’ said Tanya as she pulled out her sunglasses. ‘I’ve never seen so much snow. It feels like the top of the world.’
Sophie ran along the path and then threw herself backwards. She felt the soft thud as she landed in the deep snow. Closing her eyes she slid her arms up and down across the white surface. There was another thud as Tanya joined her.
‘This is amazing. No wonder you love it so much.’
Sophie felt the shadow blocking out the sun and opened her eyes. A hand reached out...to Tanya and pulled her up. Sophie sat up and stared as Tanya was transfixed and staring into the eyes of the young man that was still holding her hand. No hand was proffered to her so Sophie helped herself up and dusted herself down. Tanya had the same look on her face that Sophie had imagined was on her own face in her dream and the man looking back at her was smiling. Recognition dawned.
‘Tom! What are you doing here?’ Sophie spluttered.
‘Hi Sis. I’m here with Jake. You remember him don’t you?’ he said and pointed over to the man that was waving at them.
Sophie glanced over to Jake and waved back. She turned around to see that Tom and Tanya were still staring at each other. It seemed that Tanya was right. Your dreams don’t always come true in exactly the way you think they will. She felt cheated. She had waited all these years to meet Mr Right on top of this mountain and now she knew that it would never happen for her.
Jake joined them and they all went for lunch together. Sophie and Jake both realised what had happened between Tom and Tanya and gave them space. They all went back outside after lunch and headed for the tyre and sledge run where shrieks of delight and fear echoed around the mountain. Tom and Tanya decided to share a sledge and Sophie and Jake opted for a tyre each to slide down the fun run which had been set up. The ride was exhilarating and cheered Sophie’s mood so she decided to do it again. On the second run she squealed as it sped down the slope even faster than the first time. She didn’t see the tyre in front as she hit it and flew up and over into the air. She felt the painful slap as her face met the snow and then everything went black.
‘Wake up Sophie. Wake up.’
She could hear a voice but her eyes were refusing to respond. Everything hurt. Her head, her chest, her legs. What happened? Where was she?
‘Sophie. Sophie. Wake up. You’re in the hospital. I’m Dr Farniér.’ said the voice again. It wasn’t an English accent. French?
Finally, light began to pierce her eyelids as she blinked and tried to open them again. A pair of big brown eyes looked back at her. ‘Brown?’ she puzzled as her heart performed a perfect somersault.